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Workers given just 48 hours notice of shifts starting, changing or being cancelled, says Citizens Advice

One in five employers (19%) say they tend to give contracted staff less than 48 hours notice of their shifts, figures from Citizens Advice reveal.

As the labour market becomes increasingly reliant on flexible workers the national charity is calling on employers to improve how they manage workers who have non-standard contracts, such as agency staff or zero hour contracts.

One recommendation is to make better use of technology in areas such as rota and shift management, such as introducing a platform or app where people can specify in advance when they are available for work. This would offer workers greater control and allow them to plan their lives more easily and manage their budgets effectively while also delivering efficiencies for businesses, for example with staffing management.

The research reveals a significant minority of employers have practices which make it challenging for many people on variable hour contracts to manage their work-life balance - such as not letting staff specify when they can work (19%) but not allowing them turn down shifts (22%). Uncertainty around hours can also mean many don’t know how much they’ll be paid from one month to the next, making it harder to keep on top of their finances.

A survey of over 1,100 line managers, senior managers and HR managers in public, private and third sector employers based in England and Wales reveals:

  • 1 in 5 (22%) say staff cannot turn down a shift.

  • 1 in 5 (19%) say staff could not specify times or days when they were unavailable.

  • 1 in 10 (10%) say staff can neither turn down a shift nor specify their availability.

  • 7% say they give staff less than 48 hours notice of shifts and staff can't turn down a shift.

One man turned to Citizens Advice for help as he was on a zero hour contract and from week to week would work anything from 20 to 70 hours. He said he rarely turns down shifts as he’s nervous that if he does they won’t offer him any more hours. “Thankfully I always have enough to cover my rent” he said “[but] it's hard as I don't ever know how much money I will earn, which makes it hard to plan ahead for things”.

In its new report “How can job security exist in the modern world of work?”Citizens Advice also outlines recommendations to government. These include requiring large employers  to publish information on the proportions of their workforce on different types of employment contracts.

This kind of transparency already exists for issues such as the gender pay gap, expanding it to contract types would mean businesses have to actively consider the overall shape of their workforce and the quality of the jobs they offer.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“The world of work has changed dramatically in recent years but employment practices have not kept pace.

“While flexible hours work well for some people, many find that the unpredictability and short notice of shifts makes managing life around their job a huge challenge. Childcare and study are just two examples of plans where you need more than 48 hours to arrange, but for some people turning down work is simply not an option.

“The government is already taking welcome action to tackle some of the root causes of insecurity in the labour market, such as through its review of modern employment, investigation into the rights and treatment of non-permanent staff and increased investment in minimum wage enforcement.

“But government intervention alone cannot solve insecurity in the labour market; employers also have a key role to play. Bosses have a duty of care to all of their staff, no matter what type of contract they’re on. Steps such as better management of flexible workers and transparency around workforce makeup could transform the labour market and deliver real improvements to the ever growing ranks of flexible workers.”

How can job security exist in the modern world of work?

Notes to editors

  1. ComRes survey for Citizens Advice of 1,108 line managers, senior managers and HR managers in England and Wales conducted Oct-Nov, 2016.
  2. The findings of “How can job security exist in the modern world of work?” will be discussed at a Citizens Advice event in the afternoon of Thursday 19 January 2017, where speakers will include Matthew Taylor (RSA), Gavin Kelly (Resolution Trust) and Neil Carberry (CBI). Register for tickets.
  3. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal & other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  4. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.To find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales or to get advice online, visit citizensadvice.org.uk.
  5. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  6. Last year we helped over 2.7 million people face to face, by phone, email or web chat.
  7. People sought our help with 6.2 million issues in the last year. For full service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends.
  8. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 23,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,900 locations across England and Wales.
  9. Citizens Advice was named Charity Times 2015 charity of the year.
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